Tag Archives: theological narcissism

“Be zealous for true religion” in a time of theological narcissism requires a different orientation

St Basil at the Liturgy.jpg

I came across a portion of Saint Basil the Great’s Letter 90 addressed to the bishops of the West. I like reading these types of letters because they give a great sense of the history of Christian salvation history. In 2000 years we’ve been exposed to some things more than once. Apparently, Basil is responding to reports of some members of the Church allowing certain influences of society, politics, and unorthodox teaching of the Faith to enter into, to penetrate, the life of the Holy Church. What came to mind was the phrase of Pope Francis a couple of months ago when he warned the Church about theological narcissism. It’s not all about me! There are times when a Christian can be too cozy with the culture in which he or she lives.

Saint Basil isn’t writing today, he inhabits the 4th century. His words, though, are timeless; his description of the currents are applicable today. It makes no sense to me to merely identify the problems of today without saying that the change can’t applied to all others and not be a provocation to my own conversion. Reform is not the responsibility of all others, but conversion of mind and heart is also my own spiritual work before the Divine Majesty.

The zeal for true religion that Basil wants to propose is two fold: the work of God acting in the world today, and our sharing what we have received from Jesus Christ. Zeal for the Kingdom is about God’s work, not my own; it is God’s creation, God’s Church, God’s people –not mine. Basil is rejecting a theological narcissism. Isn’t that what we face today? The faith we’ve been given by the Lord is transferred to the life of the Church, as another “Great” once said, Saint Leo. As the Lord Himself turns toward the Father in prayer, so must our orientation be set on the Trinity.

The doctrines of the Fathers are despised; apostolic traditions are set at nought; the devices of innovators are in vogue in the Churches; now men are rather contrivers of cunning systems than theologians; the wisdom of this world wins the highest prizes and has rejected the glory of the cross. Shepherds are banished, and in their places are introduced grievous wolves hurrying the flock of Christ. Houses of prayer have none to assemble in them; desert places are full of lamenting crowds. The elders lament when they compare the present with the past. The younger are yet more to be shown compassion, for they do not know of what they have been deprived. All this is enough to stir the pity of men who have learned the love of Christ; but, compared with the actual state of things, words fall very far short. If then there be any consolation of love, any fellowship of the Spirit, any bowels of mercy, be stirred to help us. Be zealous for true religion, and rescue us from this storm. Ever be spoken among us with boldness that famous dogma of the Fathers, which destroys the ill-famed heresy of Arius, and builds up the Churches in the sound doctrine wherein the Son is confessed to be of one substance with the Father, and the Holy Ghost is ranked and worshipped as of equal honor, to the end that through your prayer and co-operation the Lord may grant to us that same boldness for the truth and glorying in the confession of the divine and saving Trinity which He has given you.

Following Jesus means stepping outside ourselves, Pope tells us today

The first Wednesday General Audience of Pope Francis was delivered today. Indeed, Pope Francis is moving us away from the narcissism in which we find ourselves, either personally, or as a Church. The Pope’s text follows, and Vatican Radio’s carrying of the English portion of the address.

Georg Gaenswein and Pope Francis 27 Mar 2013.jpg

I am pleased to welcome you to my first general audience. With deep gratitude and veneration I am taking up the “witness” from the hands of my beloved predecessor, Benedict XVI. After Easter we will resume the catechesis on the Year of Faith. Today I would like to focus a little on Holy Week. With Palm Sunday we began this week – the center of the whole liturgical year – in which we accompany Jesus in His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

But what does it mean for us to live Holy Week? What does it means to follow Jesus on His way to the Cross on Calvary and the Resurrection? In His earthly mission, Jesus walked the streets of the Holy Land; He called twelve simple people to remain with Him, to share His journey and continue His mission; He chose them among the people full of faith in the promises of God. He spoke to everyone, without distinction, to the great and the lowly; to the rich young man and the poor widow, the powerful and the weak; He brought the mercy and forgiveness of God to all; He healed, comforted, understood, gave hope, He led all to the presence of God, who is interested in every man and woman, like a good father and a good mother is interested in each child. God did not wait for us to go to Him, but He moved towards us, without calculation, without measures. This is how God is: He is always the first, He moves towards us. Jesus lived the daily realities of most ordinary people: He was moved by the crowd that seemed like a flock without a shepherd, and He cried in front of the suffering of Martha and Mary on the death of their brother Lazarus; He called a tax collector to be His disciple and also suffered the betrayal of a friend. In Christ, God has given us the assurance that He is with us, in our midst. “Foxes”, Jesus said, “have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head” (Mt 8:20). Jesus did not have a home because His house is the people — that is, us; His mission is to open all God’s doors, to be the loving presence of God.

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Private notes of Jorge Bergoglio from pre-conclave meetings published

Reading the notes from the pre-conclave meetings of the cardinals meeting in the General Congregation is not usual reading material for most people. One has to admit that it is interesting to know what the cardinals think and what they verbalize with regard to the life of the Church and the proposal for future ministry. Zenit.org published today the notes of Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio (now Pope Francis). Nothing really new except that now we know with better certainty the perspective of the made elected the Supreme Pontiff. The notes follow:

The archbishop of Havana says that a speech given by Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) during the cardinals’ pre-conclave meetings was “masterful” and “clear.”

Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino spoke of Cardinal Bergoglio’s speech at a Mass on Saturday in Cuba, having returned home from his trip to Rome to bid farewell to Benedict, participate in the conclave, and welcome Francis.

Cardinal Ortega said that Cardinal Bergoglio gave him the handwritten notes of the speech, and the permission to share the contents.

“Allow me to let you know, almost as an absolute first fruit, the thought of the Holy Father Francis on the mission of the Church,” Cardinal Ortega said.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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